Professional Negligence of an Expert Witness

Expert witnesses are generally used within cases to deliver their special knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education in a particular subject, testifying to certain opinions. When determining if the expert’s qualifications can infer the quality of their testimony, it is imperative to evaluate the facts upon each expert opinion and the reasoning behind each opinion. Within the instance in which a witness does not testify with proper truth or accuracy, this witness may be sued for professional malpractice or professional negligence.

The Supreme Court had ruled that witnesses cannot be sued for the content of their testimony in 1983. Immunity from this decision was based on multiple reasons. First, if the individual felt fear of being hired for a case due to the liability aspect, that individual may refuse the offer. Continuing, the testimony this individual would offer could have the potential to be altered due to fear of potential lawsuits.

The 1983 Supreme Court decision was formulated on the foundation that would ensure that an expert would have protection if his or her content comes from contextual truth through the knowledge of the individual. Conflicts of testimony of the witnesses must be weighed comparing the opinions expressed against others, taking into consideration the reasoning behind the opinion which views the witness’s credibility relative to their knowledge, skill, experience, training, and education. Nonetheless, dissecting information that seems to go against truth and purposefully falsifies necessary information can lead to professional negligence. 

Instances in Which Professional Negligence is Apparent

The most apparent instance in which an expert witness is blatantly testifying with lack of truth and accuracy. Statements in which the attorney does not expect or does not appreciate the discernment of the expert has a good possibility that the expert would keep their immunity status. However, instances in which an expert may not detail the facts of the case by their knowledge and expertise may be considered negligence, due to the expert having to explain certain aspects of a claim through the skills acquired by a specific field. Another instance of negligence could be research that is used in testimony yet was discovered or created by an individual other than the expert.

When calculating an incident, the expert must do so without any room for error, to maintain accuracy within the case. If an expert acts in negligence in calculating this data, the testimony the expert would have given may be struck from the record, deeming these findings useless, and ultimately wasting time and resources for the attorney. The outcome of this could lead to a suit for negligence, breach of contract or professional malpractice. Acting outside of the contractual agreement is within itself a dissectible scope of negligence, as there are differentiating factors that could cycle into this notion. For instance, opposing opinions between experts are not negligible.

Expert witnesses have a duty to present opinions of a certain aspect of a case through truths and accuracy that verifiably conducted through quality measures. If professional measures are taken, the expert immunity within the courtroom should stand. However, if measures are not conducted in a professional manner, as well as conducted in a way that purposefully does not align with professional measures, the expert is negligible and cannot be used within a case. While information fluctuates between experts, the duty of the expert witness is to explain their expert opinions through processes that are analogous to truth and accuracy, leading to the strongest case.

Thanks to our friends at Eglet Adams  for their insight on the potential ways in which an expert witness may be professionally negligible.